Throughout high school, Mets prospect Corey Oswalt played the infield. He was a standout third baseman and shortstop and had committed to college as an infielder before deciding to try and raise his pre-Draft stock by logging a couple innings on the mound.
Fast-forward three years and one knee surgery and the 6-foot-4 right-hander is making his living on the bump.
Oswalt allowed three hits over seven scoreless innings Monday night before short-season Brooklyn dropped a 1-0, 10-inning decision to visiting Hudson Valley at MCU Park.
Oswalt (1-0) struck out six batters and walked one in extending his season-opening scoreless streak to 13 frames. The California native fanned eight over six three-hit innings against the Renegades last Tuesday in his New York-Penn League debut.
"I faced this team the first outing, so I stuck to the same game plan as the first time," Oswalt said. "I threw a lot of two-seamers, mixed my off-speed pitches in well and trusted what my catcher was putting down.
"It makes a big difference [facing the same team] because I know the hitters' tendencies. My pitching style is to pump the zone and pitch to contact."
Oswalt worked around Daniel Miles' one-out single in the second inning and Casey Gillaspie's one-out double on a hanging slider in the fourth. Miles ripped a changeup to left field for two bases in the seventh, but Oswalt retired his final two batters to keep the game scoreless before turning things over to the bullpen.
"I was just throwing my two-seam fastball and backing it up with a changeup to get the hitters' momentum going back and forth," the 20-year-old said. "I've been working on the changeup since high school. It's a tough pitch to get down, but I'm progressing with it. I always have a changeup grip when I'm shagging and playing catch."
Selected by the Mets in the seventh round of the 2012 Draft out of San Diego's Madison High School, Oswalt was ready to play for the University of California-Santa Barbara before New York offered an over-slot signing bonus.
"Growing up, I always played a position," said Oswalt, who typically sits between 89-92 with his fastball and 80-81 with his changeup. "I loved hitting. It's helped my pitching game because I know hitters' tendencies and I know what they are looking for in certain counts. I know what they're trying to do at the plate.
"Going into my senior year, I had a couple outings on the mound to raise my stock going into the Draft. I guess they liked what they saw ... and I stuck with it. I've always had a strong arm in the infield. It was my decision, my and my parents and my uncle."
Oswalt was a career .447 hitter in 119 high school games and batted above .500 in both his sophomore and junior years. He had 40 doubles 15 homers, 109 runs scored and 92 RBIs.
"Hitting and pitching is totally different, but you're always competing. You're either a pitcher against a hitter or a hitter against a pitcher," Oswalt said. "I thought I was ready as a position player, but the scouts liked my stuff better on the mound. As a hitter, I feel like I could be where I'm at right now, too."
Oswalt went 4-3 with an 8.15 ERA in nine Appalachian League appearances in 2012 and was 0-1 with a 3.46 ERA in three outings for Rookie-level Kingsport last season before going down with a knee injury.
In his second start of the season in Johnson City, Oswalt twisted his right leg, his drive leg, delivering a pitch from a mound he said was "really tall." He remained in the game and went five innings five days later in Danville, but he said he could feel his leg start to give out every time he went into his kick.
An MRI in New York revealed a torn right meniscus and he underwent surgery, bringing an end to his sophomore season after only 13 innings.
"It was a minor setback, but all the hard work this offseason has been worth it," he said.
Scarlyn Reyes (0-1) followed Oswalt and surrendered a run on three hits and a walk while striking out five batters over three innings.
Hudson Valley's Hunter Wood gave up three hits over six shutout innings but did not factor in the decision. Josh Kimborowicz (2-0) retired all four batters he faced to collect the victory.